Countdown to WWE Royal Rumble
By JON WALDMAN -- SLAM! Wrestling
If you are expecting the usual format for today's PPV preview, then I'm sorry to disappoint, but with the Royal Rumble really being a one-match card, you can forgive me if I stray from the normal format.
Here's the reality - The World and WWE titles are more than likely going to stay where they are and the Divas title is pretty much a catch-22, dependent on whether Awesome Kong debuts (and all signs are pointing to this being her grand entrance).
So that leaves us with the 40-man (and possibly woman) Royal Rumble match. For all the kvetching I've heard on message boards and Internet radio leading up to the big bout, I'm really not convinced that the expansion is a bad thing. First, more wrestlers in the match means more paydays, and second, and more importantly for TV, it means there are more opportunities to make superstars coming out of the bout.
Based on who eliminates who, there could be a couple good feuds started here. Let's say, for example, Kane gets two eliminations to bring him to a tie with Steve Austin for the all-time Royal Rumble mark, only to be eliminated by, say, Big Show. There's the impetus you need to get both of those guys set for WrestleMania. Or how about we get Cody Rhodes coming out in a mask to get rid of Rey Mysterio (though not being part of the match, naturally) - there's another 'Mania feud started.
The Rumble will also be a great way to establish two of the newer power guys, Mason Ryan and Ezekiel Jackson. Conceivably, especially with the expanded talent, you could have those two bulls start #1 and 2 and effectively eliminate five or six guys each as they battle each other, yet still have enough space to get some other feuds going.
At the same time, we'll probably see a tease of ascension of Daniel Bryan and Kofi Kingston among others to ensure that they're not left in the dust, possibly get a return by a shelved superstar like Evan Bourne and a couple surprises, which are rumoured at this time to be Kevin Nash, Booker T and a couple others.
The other big speculation is that this is when Triple H returns to begin setting up his expected 'Mania match against Sheamus. Realistically, he could cost Sheamus his chance to win the Rumble, and that is likely to be the end result. We also may get a return from The Undertaker, but that's more likely to happen in the Elimination Chamber.
So finally, after all this, we can talk about the winner, and while a couple weeks ago I would've said it's anyone's for the taking, the inevitability is that John Cena is taking the Rumble match. I don't think he'll go bell-to-bell, but he'll likely go 45 minutes or more in getting the W and go on to face Miz for the strap. Conceivably, we could get a shocking return like Chris Jericho to face Edge once again on the Smackdown side, but there's virtually no chance that anything but a Cena victory will happen at this point. Sure, WWE could use the opportunity to push John Morrison or Sheamus completely into the title picture, or we could get, say, Dolph Ziggler winning the Rumble after losing his title match earlier in the show; but Cena has largely been out of the title picture since WrestleMania last year, which means Vince will want to get him back in the hunt, and this is certainly the place that is most apt for that.
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-- compiled by Jon Waldman
ROYAL RUMBLE HISTORY
From the SLAM! Wrestling archives:
Jan. 31, 2010: The 2010 Royal Rumble is Rated R in Atlanta
Jan. 26, 2009: Orton triumphs, Cena survives, Hardy falls at Royal Rumble
Jan. 28, 2008: Cena wins Royal Rumble in surprise return
Jan. 29, 2007: Old guard dominates Royal Rumble
Jan. 30, 2006: Mysterio claims Royal Rumble; Cena reigns again
Jan. 31, 2005: Batista claims the Royal Rumble
Jan. 26, 2004: Benoit wins the Royal Rumble
Jan. 21, 2002: Triple H wins Royal Rumble
Jan. 22, 2001: Surprises dominate Royal Rumble
Jan. 17, 2000: Rocky wins the Royal Rumble
Jan. 25, 1999: McMahon wins Royal Rumble, Rock champ again
Jan. 25, 1998: Austin wins predictable Royal Rumble